Surface Pro 2 May Target 8+ Hour Battery Life With Haswell
September 4, 2013 12:15 PM
Memory bump and NFC may also be added
Despite a rocky start for its tablet experiment, Microsoft Corp. (
) is reportedly prepping its second generation of Surface tablets for this holiday shopping season. The Surface Pro 2 is expected to receive
Core series chip
from Intel Corp. (
I. First Gen Surface Pro Was Sunk Largely by it's Intel Processor
Before 2010 no tablet had achieved strong enough sales to be characterized as a hit and the market was considered a niche space. Then in 2010 Apple, Inc.'s (
posting stunning sales
. A key to its success was its decision to dump the power-thirsty Intel processors that littered its underappreciated Windows predecessors and instead adopt a weaker but more power-efficient core design from ARM Holdings Plc. (
). Thanks to the ARM chip, the tablet boasted a battery life of 10 hours -- a key selling point.
Two years later, Microsoft, still steaming from missing the tablet craze,
ditched its OEM partners
launch its own first-party tablet hardware
-- Surface. And Microsoft offered up a variant dubbed Surface Pro that packed
a 1.7 GHz dual-core Intel i5-3317u
. The hot question was whether Intel's primary "Core" chip line had come far enough power-efficiency-wise to truly compete with hit ARM-equipped Android tablets and the iPad.
Things looked promising at first. The tablet
launched in Feb. 2013
and some retailers
sold out of their early stock
. In fact in its first month the tablet reportedly
moved 400,000 units
. But eventually
sales petered out
leading Microsoft to take a
whopping $900M USD write-down
a permanent $100 USD discount
on the struggling tablet.
Data-mining indicates that Surface RT is actually the stronger seller, comprising about 9.5 percent of Windows 8/RT devices sold, while Surface Pro occupied a measly 1.0 percent.
The Surface Pro has been outsold by the ARM-equipped Surface RT.
The deal breaker for many was the high price ($799 for 64 GB and $899 USD for 128 GB after the latest discount) coupled
with the poor battery life
. The Intel chip shaved the ample 7-hour battery life of the ARM-equipped Surface RT down to a little over 4 hours. Arguably, Intel is to blame on both of these counts as it demands up to
$300 USD more
for its power-hungry chips, versus popular ARM competitors.
To make matters worse, the tablet at times felt sluggish during heavy use with "only" 4 GB of RAM and the Windows 8 OS consumed much of the storage, leaving
only 83 GB free on the 128 GB Surface; 23 GB on the 64 GB Surface
. By contrast the iPad -- which requires about 10 percent of storage to be free, plus room for the OS -- offers about 105 GB for the 128 GB version and 54 GB for the 64 GB version [
]. It appear the Windows recovery technology is primarily to blame -- of the 10.4 GB allocated for Windows, 7.9 GB of it is reportedly for recovery.
II. Fixing Surface -- Haswell May Do the Trick
Microsoft has already moved to remedy storage shortcomings by
bumping the capacity to 256 GB
in the first-generation models.
But the pivotal question remained what to do about the power-hungry Intel chip. It appears Intel has sold Microsoft on the idea of a
brain for the Surface 2. A
recent analysis by
showed Intel making
serious power-efficiency gains with
, with a projected battery life of 8 hours with a 42.5 Wh battery. Of course these numbers were based on Apple's OS X and iOS -- but they suggest that if Microsoft does its homework on the firmware front, their may be hope that the Surface Pro 2 fixes the abysmal battery life of its predecessor.
is offering 8+ hours of battery life on a 42 Wh battery.
The aforementioned tests were done on a
ULT processor (13.5 W TDP). In June Intel also announced an even more efficient ULX line (10 W TDP) (with 'Y' tacked onto the chip numbers), which could bump battery life even higher. If Microsoft can get it hands on ULX chips, it has a shot at least doubling the battery life of the first generation Surface Pro.
The Surface Pro 2 is also expected --
-- to pack a "refined" kickstand, improving on a popular feature in the first model. It's also expected to bump the memory to 8 GB.
that other Surface Pro 2 rumors point to NFC, wireless charging, an LTE variant, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi support.
Meanwhile the Surface 2 (the second generation Surface RT) is expected to receive a predictable bump from NVIDIA Corp.'s (
) Tegra 3 arm processor to a Tegra 4 chip -- possibly
the Tegra 4i
The only official word from Microsoft is that it has committed to "updates" as noted in a video from Microsoft
. However AdDuplex -- which claims to be the largest Windows 8/RT-specific advertising network -- has noted Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 devices are already logging internet hours, indicating that Microsoft is likely dogfooding prototypes in preparation for a launch.
Microsoft has confirmed a "refresh" of Surface. [Image Source: ZDNet]
Those same numbers hint that Microsoft may be competing with its
own recently acquired
-- Nokia Oyj. (
) -- as
a pair of Nokia tablets
(codenamed RX-107, RX-108) also show up in the mined data.
“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith
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August 5, 2013, 9:30 AM
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